Shelley E. Kohan

Associate Professor, Fashion Institute of Technology
Shelley E. Kohan has been serving the retail industry for over 30 years working in senior leadership positions across various functions including general management, marketing, operations, merchandising, buying, and human resources. Positions include President Shelmark Consulting, Vice President Retail Consulting RetailNext, Executive Vice President Space NK, Vice President Store Operations Saks Fifth Avenue, Operating Vice President Bloomingdale’s, Director of Logistics Macy’s West, and Regional Director Operations Macy’s West. Kohan is a recognized retail expert appearing in the NBC Nightly News, Fox News, CGTN Global Business News, Wall St. Journal, New York Times, Women’s Wear Daily, Reuters, Fortune, Chain Store Age, The Robin Report, and other publications. She is a webinar and conference speaker appearing at WWD Digital, WWD 20/20, NRF Big Show,, Future of Stores and RIS Retail Executive Summit. Kohan has been honored as a Top Retail Influencer (2016, 2017, 2018) by Vend University. Kohan teaches as a tenured assistant professor both face-to-face and online classes on topics of retail management, case study method, marketing strategies, leadership development, and fashion business practices. Shelley earned a Master of Business Administration (M.B.A.) degree from Penn State University, a bachelor’s degree in Organizational Behavior from the University of San Francisco and an associate’s degree in Merchandising and Buying from the Fashion Institute of Technology of the State University of New York.
  • Posted on: 09/27/2022

    Amazon is not letting Walmart and Target get a head start on Christmas

    Retailers should be nervous, the recent Fed interest rate hike has consumers worried about a recession. Retailers want to convert inventory to cash and will worry less about margin over the next three months. The margin ship has sailed for this year. Retailers need to churn through holiday, warm weather and fashion goods so promotions are starting early. Amazon changed the game in terms of the cadence of holiday shopping in 2020 when Prime Day was in October which has forever changed when the holiday season begins. While sales may be slightly higher than last year (projected at 5 percent to 6 percent), it does not cover the increase in inflationary pricing.
  • Posted on: 09/19/2022

    Will Patagonia’s ownership help save the planet and its retail business?

    Patagonia has been the leader and well ahead of the industry in terms of environmentally friendly practices and is one of the first to take on mass consumerism head-on. The move to give the company to a nonprofit to further its mission of positively impacting the climate crisis is a great move and will resonate with the younger generations; customers and employees alike. Purpose alongside profits will win in the long run.
  • Posted on: 09/12/2022

    Is now the right or wrong time for retailers to invest big in their businesses?

    Retailers that do not invest in the right capabilities will be left behind. The question is not whether to invest or not invest but WHERE to invest and NOT invest. The harder question facing retailers today is whether to outsource functions or build in-house. Most retailers that are moving forward and leading the industry have a hybrid model that includes both. Having a specific market strategy and clear brand vision is key; retailers cannot be all things to all people -- that is when capital funding can go down a larger sinkhole.
  • Posted on: 08/31/2022

    Sephora learns an expensive lesson about customer data privacy in California

    Sephora's settlement will be a wake up call for all retailers. Data privacy is increasingly more important as data sharing becomes more prolific. Consumers grow weary of their data being shared unknowingly. Even when consumers "accept" a retailer's policy on privacy, most of them do not read the fine print of the policy. Policies and practices should be transparent and easy for consumers to understand. The opt in process allows a better chance of success for retailers to be transparent about data sharing. Consumers should be protected and have a say in how their data is shared. Most consumers are fine with their favorite retailers using data to create a better shopping experience, so a transparent process for consumers to understand HOW their data is to be used is critical. CA has always been stringent in terms of human resource and consumer protection policy so retailers can be conservative and create policies that align with CA regulations. Play it safe and protect the consumer.
  • Posted on: 08/03/2022

    The Nordstrom tire return story is true

    Nordstrom's culture of service is not easily replicated and many have tried. The reason is that service is embedded in the culture from day one at the company. Countless stories are told each and every day at every store. Storytelling is a visualization easily understood by listeners. Employees aspire to be part of the story. Happy employees drive happy customers and higher profits. While customer service is easily copied, customer service culture is very difficult to copy. Just look at how many retailers have been able to successfully copy Nordstrom's culture -- exactly none.
  • Posted on: 06/28/2022

    ThredUP asks consumers to boycott Shein’s pop-up shop

    It is great that companies like ThredUP are standing up for what they believe in and it has demonstrated the company prefers collaboration over confrontation. The problem with ultra-fast fashion is the surging consumer demand. Shein is meeting a need in the marketplace which will only grow as discretionary spending is squeezed by the grip of inflation. The only way to reduce waste and change consumer behavior is through education which is what ThredUP tries to do. In this case, the Shein pop is on the home turf of ThredUP which may have raised its hackles prompting ThredUP to use this type of marketing, which will most likely backfire and is not a sustainable tactic (40 percent off).
  • Posted on: 06/24/2022

    Is the metaverse opportunity getting any clearer?

    Two significant considerations for the metaverse are currency and decentralization. Retailers need to understand both of these factors. With that said, early movers are able to use the metaverse as a great branding effort, especially to capture Gen Z and Alphas. We are at least a decade away from seamless in the metaverse but the learning curve will not be as steep as moving to online was in the '90s.
  • Posted on: 06/21/2022

    Are retailers and consumers misaligned on trust?

    Consistency and actionable feedback are trust builders for brands. Trust is consistency in EXPECTED service and having products in stock at a price that the target market sees as valuable (not cheap, but the exchange of dollar for the product is of high value). Today's customers want to be heard and want to see action from feedback. Employees want to see companies DO what they say and DO the RIGHT THING. Here is the problem with trust, it takes a long time to build and no time to crumble.
  • Posted on: 06/17/2022

    Does Amazon need a great Prime Day now more than ever?

    No question that Amazon needs to do GREAT for Prime Day this year. With a slowing sales trend, sluggish subscription service revenue compared to last year, and online sales dropping 1 percent for Q1, Prime Day needs to be a winner in sales, profit and new memberships. The most important factor for Amazon is demonstrating to its Prime members the value-add of being a Prime member. Prime Day allows Amazon to gain more subscribers just in time for the holiday season.
  • Posted on: 06/10/2022

    New PetSmart program is all about helping vets help pets

    The PVS is a triple win for PetSmart, the franchisee and the customer. PetSmart is able to provide veterinary services for its customers without having to build out the business internally allowing the trained, certified experts to run the business. The franchisee has a better chance at success given the resources, tools and customer base to build their business in a cost-effective manner. Customers are able to receive services and help small business owners become successful. The only major downside is when the service delivered does not meet the expectations of PetSmart or the customers.
  • Posted on: 05/18/2022

    Walmart and Target report higher sales and lower margins

    There are too many fluctuations in the variables to make strategic decisions based on one or two quarters. Both retailers, like the other behemoth Amazon, are all in this for the long run. For Walmart the fiscal year projections show a 4 percent increase in sales and over the next two quarters, the inventory levels should come back into balance. Walmart has the advantage on operating expenses whereas Target has the advantage on gross margins. Both companies are chasing the global advertising business as a revenue stream to offset other expenses.
  • Posted on: 04/11/2022

    Should retail fear or embrace organized labor’s comeback?

    Happy workers don't unionize. It is that simple.
  • Posted on: 04/06/2022

    What are the hurdles to becoming data-driven?

    Unified commerce is the single most important aspect of driving analytics in companies, especially retailers where data has forever been siloed. The complexity of today's multichannel process including the added areas of social commerce and mobile commerce makes it a challenge to effectively draw insights across structured and non-structured data. The primary impediment for retailers using data-driven decisions is culture -- just like the culture of innovation, there should be a culture of using analytics to drive decisions combined with human guidance and intuition.
  • Posted on: 03/28/2022

    Nike heads to the wholesale exits

    The power of Nike's branding and mass appeal allows the company to move towards a stronger DTC business. Not all companies can go at it alone with fewer retail partners so it is a playbook that should be cautiously copied. The reset of wholesale is simple: have control over product distribution and pricing, build deeper loyalty with strategic partnerships and provide better shopping experiences for the customers. Nike is a pioneer in the space of pivoting from being a wholesale brand to becoming a brand with supremacy -- online, in-stores and in the metaverse. A true immersive experiential brand.
  • Posted on: 03/14/2022

    Lululemon joins the footwear race with new running shoes

    Lululemon's move into the footwear category is bold, yet risky. Footwear production is a more costly endeavor and requires specialized factories and equipment. Additionally, the back-of-house storing requirements based on the number of SKUs to provide a proper assortment are substantial. I am also baffled why Lullulemon did not venture into the shoe business with more of a focus on their core expertise -- yoga footwear. Focusing on women's shoes is great but the running shoe category is filed with incumbents.

Contact Shelley E.


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